I’m poorly ripping off Replay Dave (Grabass Charlestons) right here. We talked about this album at length. This is, secretly, Against Me!s third album. Zig and zag as you may, there are certain inevitable mistakes on a band’s second album. Everything from growing self-consciousness, “improved” playing technique, and the availability of a better studio can distract bands (“What does that knob do?” “Can we do solos?” “You got a theramin?”), especially if the bands had a modicum of success with their first full-length. (Against Me! had, well, much more than a modicum.) I’m not suggesting that there’s a wholly unreleased, in-the-vaults Against Me! album, I’m just floored at how much different yet the same this album is compared to Reinventing Axl Rose. The mistakes I’m so used to hearing in sophomore jinx albums just aren’t there. Here’s the unmolested template for Against Me! Acoustics are the core, wrapped around voices, strings, and poundables. Basically, what could be done at a punk barbecue, all revved up and written impeccably. Anthems that you’re not ashamed to sing, that sort of thing. Differences: overt politics are redirected to powerful personal policies and inflection. Rally cries seem to be coming from the inside, not just part of a small group. There’s a lot more singing on the Eternal Cowboy. Fuckin’-a Tom and Andrew can sing and I’m glad they’re given more of a chance. There are a lot of subtle differences in the music, too. Although there’s been some minor backlash with Against Me!, This Bike Is a Pipebomb, and the Hair Beard Combo as being jamboree punk, picking up the Young Pioneers banner that some wish would have remained buried, I just hear a great band, not afraid to listen to a broad swath of music. They let it ripple the waters just a little bit. In the corners, of all things, in the guitars I hear early ‘80s underground pop, especially the Cure. Hats off.